High Level of Gut Bacteria Could Elevate the Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

According to a study performed by the New York University Langine Medical Center, recently diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients tend to have larger amount of specific gut bacteria, Prevotella copri, in their intestines. Fewer bacteria are found on patients who already managed the inflammatory disease with treatment or those without the disease. An experiment involving mice has encouraged researchers to examine rheumatoid arthritis patients and they discovered a surprising and remarkable association. However, one researcher warned that such a study doesn’t necessarily provide a causal link between rheumatoid arthritis and bacteria.

Rheumatoid arthritis is widely known as an inflammatory disease that affects the joint linings, typically in the feet and hands, causing pain and swelling. In more severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis may result in joints deformity and bone erosion. It is estimated that up to one percent of the public is affected by this condition. The cause of this condition is precisely known, but apparently genetic factors play an important part in elevating susceptibility among patients; although infection also contributes to the emergence of rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers collected fecal DNA samples from 44 patients recently diagnosed with the condition and who hasn’t yet received treatments involving immune-suppression drugs. They also obtained fecal DNA samples from 26 patients who have been treated for their rheumatoid arthritis conditions; 16 patients with psoriatic arthritis and 28 healthy people. Researchers performed gene sequencing process on these samples. The result was quite clear, traces of P. copri bacteria was detected in 75 percent of DNA samples from diagnosed patients. Meanwhile, only 21 percent of the healthy individuals, 37.5 percent of patients with psoriatic arthritis and 11.5 percent of patients with treated rheumatoid arthritis have the bacteria in their guts.

This finding has encouraged researchers to determine possible link between the presence of P. copri bacteria and rheumatoid arthritis.

This means that specific treatments aimed to control the growth of P. copri in the gut, which could slow down progression of rheumatoid arthritis. It could be that specific gut bacteria could contribute to the inflammation.

Gut bacteria are often associated with how our immune system works. People need helpful microbes in their digestive system to compete and eradicate unwanted invaders. Specific gut microbes are known to have strong contribution to the development of specific immune cells, such as the Th17 cell. Researchers accidentally found that mice from different suppliers have varying levels of Th17 immune cells and this could be associated to characteristics of rodents’ gut microbes. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is widely known as an autoimmune disease, meaning that patient’s own immune system is attacking healthy tissues in the body.